Welcome to PortlandTomorrow.org
Updated: Oct 13, 2021
Welcome to PortlandTomorrow.org, a website focused on building a better future Portland by respecting and honoring the history that continues to make it a great place to live, work, and play. To kick off our blog posting, here’s a message about why we feel this mission is important!
Portland is an old city, but Portland’s elected leaders want to pretend otherwise. The proportion of Portland’s building stock dating to before World War II is comparable to that of Chicago, Baltimore and Philadelphia – cities that come to mind when we think of “old” American conurbations.
That is a problem. And an opportunity.
Buildings and places from before the modern era have the quirky uniqueness that helps define the image and character of our cities. Same-old-same-old boxy high rises and minimalist strip malls may be economical for today’s commercial interests, but they have no appeal for tourists and no unique draw for potential new residents looking for some place “special”.
Many U.S. and many more world-wide cities recognize the importance of their architectural and cultural heritage as drivers of their tourist and general economies and actively designate and protect the best places and landmarks to protect their economic and social value. In fact, the State of Oregon has Land Use Goals which include, among many other things, requirements for Oregon communities (both cities and counties) to identify, formally designate, and actively protect historically significant places – but for much of the last 30 years, Portland has shirked this responsibility – preferring to focus on its “hip” vibe and “with-it” national image.
The graphic above, developed by the Portland Bureau of Planning and Sustainability shows the concentration of historic buildings in the core of Portland -- red indicates buildings built prior to 1910 and orange is for buildings dating to before 1935 and after 1910. This was part of the 2009 Portland Plan report on Historic Resources, which sank without a trace after its delivery to City Council.
In this time of tribulation in Portland with multiple crises of homelessness, rising housing costs, racial justice challenges, economic distress in the downtown core, gun violence, and slowing population growth, it is tempting to succumb to disillusionment and pessimism about the future. But we refuse to go down the path of surrender to a difficult present, and instead turn our attention to the possibilities of the future.
Portland’s City Government is, as this is written, about to undertake a major revision of its regulations for designating and protecting the historic resources that define Portland today and can help drive recovery and growth in the future. Thirty years of neglect leaves great opportunities to re-assess Portland places that were ignored over those years and that deserve to be designated, protected, and turned into engines of community pride and economic growth. New, and improved City regulations are key to leveraging this opportunity to make Portland great again. But, there are powerful forces that argue for weakened protections, a halt to further designations, and expanded opportunities for demolition and replacement of Portland’s historic fabric.
The project to update City regulations, the Historic Resources Code Project, and the urgent need to “get it right”, despite pressure from narrowly focused developer and ideological interests, has prompted creation of this PortlandTomorrow.org website. We encourage you to explore its resources and stay tuned for more blog posts that focus on specific issues and opportunities – and on how you can help make a difference for Portland. For more information on how you can have your voice heard, click here!